Former world cycling chief Hein Verbruggen has dismissed as “ridiculous” a report suggesting he and Lance Armstrong may join forces and buy Amoury Sports Organization (ASO), the company which owns the Tour de France.
Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald suggested last week that a link-up between seven-time yellow jersey champion Armstrong and former International Cycling Union (UCI) chief Verbruggen “carried weight”.
But just as the American cycling icon who recovered from cancer a decade ago was confirming his comeback at a press conference in New York, Verbruggen was rubbishing the notion.
The Dutchman told AFP: “I heard about the rumours that said I wanted to be president of the UCI again, or that I would try to buy the Tour de France. All of which, of course, are completely ridiculous.”
Verbruggen reacted positively to Armstrong’s return in a bid to win an eighth Tour crown, while spreading the word worldwide about the threat of cancer.
But he said he had not spoken to the 37-year-old Texan in two years, and added that the return of Armstrong – who spent much of his illustrious career fighting doping suspicions – would surely get a mixed reception.
“If he comes back I know him well enough to know it’s not just to make up the numbers,” added Verbruggen, who launched the troubled Pro Tour cycling series nearly four years ago before handing over the presidency to Irishman Pat McQuaid in 2005.
“He has a lot of charisma and is popular in a lot of countries. There are some who will welcome his comeback a lot more than others.”
Verbruggen, who held a top co-ordinator’s post within the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for the Beijing Olympics, was speaking on the day he officially resigned his UCI post of vice-president.
The Dutchman was obliged to hold such a post in order to hold his position within the IOC, from which he also resigned recently.
© BikeRadar & AFP 2008